For the past 3 months, I have been reciting a gatha I learned from Thich Nhat Hanh. A gatha is a Sanskrit term meaning a verse or hymn. Thicht Nhat Hanh teaches that we can use various gathas throughout the day to remember. I have trouble with remembering. While memory really tells of a process or series of processes that are used to acquire, store, retain, and later retrieve information, I visualize it as a place inside my skull. As I get older, and as the information highway multiplies, that place inside my skull seems to have exploded into a million pieces! So I set up an alarm on my phone that rings twice a day. I have to tell you that each time it goes off disturbing my work day, I think “What the????” Then I read: Breathe and notice your feelings. Be Present. ”Oh! OK.”
To get back to the gatha. I recite it while I am still in bed, before I open my eyes each morning (if I forget, I recite it as soon as I remember). Here it is: I wake up this morning with a SMILE on my face. (At this point I put an actual smile on my actual face.) Another 24 hour are before me. I vow to be kind, compassionate and present to all beings I meet, including myself. I added the last piece myself as I have learned that I am often the last person to get any kindly treatment.
So, let’s break it down:
I wake up this morning. OK, so waking up is a privilege. Researchers concluded that more people die of heart attacks on Monday mornings before they ever get out of bed. Another study claims that more people commit suicides on Wednesdays. My own brother died on Wednesday, the morning of July 26th. He had woken up and was preparing to go into a recovery treatment center; he never made it. So I don’t take waking up for granted. Waking up any day is a gift and a blessing. I know deep in my bones that we have a brief time here and that I really have come to love it here. Books alone make me soooo happy. Writers challenge my mind, morality and my thinking; they make me laugh out loud; they make me cry. Family members here and gone have shaken me to my bones and loved me as deeply. I like that too. And don’t get me started on nature….
With a smile on my face. This is crazy. Do you know that during the heart of the Women’s Movement there was a call for a strike on smiling? Women admittedly smiled to please others, not necessarily because something was pleasing. So in order to show power over ourselves, we went on a smile strike. Today science has studied and proven that just putting your facial muscles in the form of a smile can produce effects on the body that are similar to those that result from the actual feeling of being happy. Feminists welcome to smiling as often as you like as an act of self-empowerment!
Another 24 hour are before me. Another chance. I love this. I can practice what I learned yesterday. I may make the same mistake over again, but I have another chance to act. I need another chance. I want another chance. Here I acknowledge that I have another chance.
I vow to be kind, compassionate and present to all beings I meet. A vow! WOW! That is a strong statement. I vowed to stay committed in marriage (twice) and other than during those two rituals (and one of which didn’t make it all the way), I don’t use the word vow. The dictionary defines it as: a solemn promise, pledge, or personal commitment: Solemn – that sounds very serious and is defined as: grave, sober, or mirthless, as a person, the face, speech, tone, or mood. But I know by making a vow, I am asking myself for a deeper commitment. Sorry, I am not promising to be mirthless. I am not saying that I will achieve my goal and I am not promising to kick myself if I don’t. It is a reminder that I aspire to be more; to cause no harm.
including myself. This is the part I added myself. You are probably not surprised. I am spending the rest of my life learning to include myself when I am loving, compassionate and for sure, kind. Sometimes I add playful. I invite you to try this little gatha for 4 weeks into 2016. Don’t be surprised if you wake up with more gratitude and joy, ready to face a new day in this new year.
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